The White House’s announcement this week about establishing diplomatic relations with Castro’s Cuba after a 53 year hiatus came as a big surprise. Congress was not consulted, and even some Senate Democrats were critical of that facet of the move. But we need to get accustomed to surprises and unilateral actions from a president who feels unbound and unfettered by the Constitution, Congress or public opinion.
Opening diplomatic relations and expanded trade with the communist regime in Cuba will likely prove popular among many Cuban-Americans, especially younger Cubans who have no memory of the pre-Castro era and no firsthand experience with the regime’s totalitarian rule. There will be the usual blather about trade and commerce being the oil that can encourage a new dialogue, modernization and “liberalization.”
If history is any guide, those hopes and expectations will be dashed. The communist stranglehold on Cuba will not be loosened by trade and expanded tourism. In fact, just the opposite is the case. Obama is offering a huge economic boost to the Cuban economy, but the Cuban regime will be the beneficiary, not the Cuban people.
The idea that trade, commerce and tourism can promote regime change in a totalitarian regime is a myth of progressive utopianism and has no basis in historic reality. It did not work in the 1930s with the Soviet Union; it did not work in the 1950s or 1960s with Communist China; and it did not worked in the 1980s and ’90s with the unified communist Vietnam. But everyone in the U.S. State Department will be surprised when it does not work in Cuba.
Does China have more religious freedom or press freedom today as a result of its vast trade and tourism with the West? China has unilaterally abrogated its 1997 treaty with Great Britain, which guaranteed democracy for the citizens of Hong Kong for 50 years. Did we hear one peep of criticism out of Obama? No.
When Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was introducing glasnost (openness) and perestroika (economic restructuring) in the USSR in the 1980s, Castro was among the harshest critics of Gorbachev’s policies. When communism collapsed in the USSR and the Berlin Wall came down, Fidel Castro vowed to protect Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy in Cuba and to never allow reforms that weakened the Communist Party’s hold on power.
Castro and his brother have kept that promise, and their ideological stubbornness has now been vindicated by Obama’s unilateral concessions.
The truth is that the prospects for regime change are harmed by this move to “normalization” for the simple, elementary reason that only the regime is strengthened by these American actions. The United States did not require any significant reforms in Cuban political, economic or cultural institutions or practices.
Will the press be any more free in Cuba after we have a U.S. Embassy in Havana? No. Will Raul Castro order the privatization of Cuban industry? No. Will the Cuban military sell off the dozens of big hotels they own and operate? No. Will free enterprise blossom in 2015 and 2016 in response to a flood of a million new tourists? No. Will the regime now adopt humanitarian reforms in it vast Gulag of prison camps or release thousands of political prisoners? No. Why should they? They got what they wanted without any such reforms.
Basically, Obama is saying to Cuba, we will open our doors (and our treasury?) and help you in myriad ways, but you don’t have to change anything you’re doing to oppress your own people or sow discord throughout Latin America. At a time when Marxist regimes in South America – in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, for example – are falling apart due to their leftist policies, Obama is throwing a lifeline to their principal sponsor, partner and benefactor, Communist Cuba.
Obama’s actions on Cuba have nothing to do with helping Cubans improve their lives by promoting a transformation within the brutal communist regime. Obama’s actions, like so many of his deeds, are all about Obama. It’s all about his “legacy” and his need to apologize to our enemies for 50 years of mistakes in American foreign policy.
Get ready; this is only the beginning. When Obama starts apologizing for America’s faults and mistakes and begins making amends by rewarding Marxist dictators to fortify his “legacy,” there could be a new surprise every month for the remainder of his term.
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